26 Coombs to Chifley

Letter [CANBERRA], 13 September 1948

I refer to my memorandum of 7th May, 1948 [1] with which I forwarded you a report dealing with certain aspects of dollar policy, and especially with the need to develop action aimed at a long-term improvement of the dollar position.

A series of interdepartmental discussions has since been held to consider the matters which my report raised, and an agreed document has been drawn up in the form of a recommendation to you, setting out the most suitable approach to the problem and the machinery which might best be used to undertake the necessary action. I submit herewith a copy of the agreed document for your consideration.

Briefly, the action contemplated is the influencing of Australian economic development along dollar saving or dollar earning lines, either for Australia itself, or for the sterling area. The action would proceed project by project, and would mainly take the form of hastening or extending normal development in the Australian economy with due regard to keeping costs at economic levels. The machinery which is recommended comprises a Sub-Committee of Cabinet for periodic reviews of plans and achievements, and inter- departmental committee of the permanent heads of the directly interested Departments. (Commerce and Agriculture, Trade and Customs, Treasury, Post-war Reconstruction, and the Division of Industrial Development are the Departments represented. Other Departments will be concerned from time to time, and will be brought into discussions as necessary). The Department of Post-war Reconstruction will provide the executive for both the Cabinet Sub-Committee and the departmental committee. Individual departments will retain their functions and responsibilities in the development of the projects, but the inter-departmental committee would be in a position to initiate, expedite and co- ordinate action by the departments wherever desirable.

As a result of the meetings already held action is in progress in the appropriate Departments to examine in a preliminary way a number of possible developments. The results of the investigations will be reported to the inter-departmental committee and the most suitable projects will be selected and recommended to the Cabinet Sub-Committee for endorsement. [2]

1 Document 17.

2 Chifley approved the proposed action and the setting up of the administrative machinery. In the following year three interdepartmental meetings were held but there were no ministerial meetings. Bunting commented (in a letter to Wilson, 28 October 1949) that, because Australia was not in 'imminent danger' of losing its sterling area dollar drawings, the committee did not have a active life. 'There was a strong view that it was not practicable for Australia to do anything to alleviate the sterling area dollar problem other than to keep on supplying United Kingdom with goods it would otherwise need to buy for dollars-mainly foodstuff.'

[AA: A9790, 533, i]